ECOLOGY: Nothing to Sniff at…

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Science  30 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5855, pp. 1351b
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5855.1351b

In many animals, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) has been thought to be responsible for the generation of signals that inform the status of relationship among individuals. The similarity of MHC complexes, which is detectable by scent, were believed to be a means by which mice, and potentially other mammals, recognize and avoid breeding with close relatives. However, Cheetham et al. now find that female mice could not differentiate between individuals that differed solely on the basis of their MHC type. Instead, the mice showed preferences between a choice of half-sibling males on the basis of direct contact with another set of species-specific variable markers—their major urinary proteins. This suggests that the factors used by many animals to recognize specific individuals may not in fact be controlled by their MHC profile. — LMZ

Curr. Biol. 17, 1771 (2007).

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